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What Is a Flight Nurse?

Flight nurses might be members of emergency medical teams that respond to disaster sites such as those hit by earthquakes.
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  • Written By: Cassie L. Damewood
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2014
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A flight nurse is a registered nurse who accompanies patients and doctors on airplanes and helicopters to provide medical care and assistance. He is normally expected to keep the patient safe and secure before, during and after the flight to a hospital or other facility that provides medical care or assistance. A flight nurse may be employed by an airline, hospital or private entity. He may also be an independent contractor.

Before embarking the plane, a flight nurse is normally expected to review all the medical records of the patient being transported and consult with the attending physician to obtain more information. Subsequent to this pre-flight procedure, he typically assesses what equipment and supplies are needed and personally guarantees they are properly and completely placed on the aircraft. These medical items normally include an oxygen tank, IV medications and supplements, oral medications and airway management equipment.

Once the flight is airborne, a flight nurse is typically expected to be well versed in the special requirements of patient air transport. His skills are generally expected to include proficiency in resolving problems specific to aeromedical care such as emergency stabilization and adverse reactions to pressurized environments. Knowledge of aircraft safety and operational procedures is normally required.

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Once the aircraft lands and the patient is safely transported to a medical care facility, the flight nurse is ordinarily required to update the receiving staff on the patient’s condition. If there were any medical problems encountered during the flight or atmospheric anomalies that may have affected the patient’s status, the nurse is regularly required to share those as well. All records and documents regarding the patient are typically surrendered to the new staff of doctors and nurses.

If the flight nurse is employed by an airline, he is customarily required to restock any medications or supplies used in the flight. He is normally expected to clean and sterilize equipment in readiness for the next flight. Any equipment problems normally require rectification before the next medical flight can be scheduled.

A successful flight nurse is generally expected to have no fear of flying and be able to maintain physical and mental stability while effectively caring for his patient. Being able to use in-flight communication networks is essential for the nurse to receive instructions from ground sources if necessary. A calming and supportive demeanor is also a great asset for a flight nurse.

The basic educational requirements for this position are the same as for a registered nurse. A bachelor’s degree in nursing along with a nursing license are necessary to be considered for the position. Additional training in aircraft medical care is a common requirement. Experience as a registered nurse in critical or emergency care is strongly preferred.

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